Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Antonia Abbey


This study was designed to assess Abbey's (1991; 2002; 2011) model, which posits that acute alcohol intoxication increases the likelihood of sexual aggression at two stages of a cross-sex interaction. Early on, the cognitive impairments induced by alcohol encourage a potential perpetrator to overperceive a woman's level of sexual intent. Later, if the man's sexual advances are rejected, intoxication encourages an aggressive response. This research expands on the previous literature by examining: 1) both stages of Abbey's model in a single study, 2) rejection from a woman as a potential trigger for aggression, and 3) behavioral (past sexual assault perpetration), personality (trait aggression) and physiological (testosterone) risk factors for aggression as moderators of the hypothesized relationships. Participants completed an online survey assessing background variables and eligibility criteria for the alcohol administration lab study. The lab study included a baseline salivary testosterone measurement, alcohol administration (alcohol vs. sober conditions), a dyadic interaction with a woman (confederate), assessment of participant's perceptions of the woman's level of sexual intent, a manipulated rejection from the woman (reject vs. accept), and a behavioral measure of aggression toward the woman (hot sauce allocation paradigm). Fifty-eight heterosexual single men, ages 21 to 28, completed the online survey and lab study. Acute alcohol intoxication, past perpetration and testosterone were unrelated to participants' overperceptions of the woman's level of sexual intent. Acute alcohol intoxication and trait aggression were marginally related to aggression toward the woman. Rejection condition and testosterone were not independently related to aggression, but worked together synergistically; rejected participants high in testosterone responded more aggressively toward the woman. Overall, this study did not provide support for Abbey's model. However, given the novelty of this study design and the small sample size, additional research is needed before any conclusions can be drawn. This study replicated key findings from the general aggression and testosterone literatures. Additional research is needed that examines how rejection from a woman increases the likelihood of directed aggression toward the woman. Future research should consider baseline and change in testosterone as potential physiological risk factors for aggression toward women.